Time to Halt the Cancer of Racism; 'Refugees Just Want a Safe Place to Live'

Sunday Mirror (London, England), June 18, 2000 | Go to article overview

Time to Halt the Cancer of Racism; 'Refugees Just Want a Safe Place to Live'


AS an independent Dublin city councillor and the principal of a north inner city school I am deeply concerned at the rise of racism in Ireland.

I have constantly spoken out against racism on our streets and in our cities and because of this, I have received an anonymous death threat in the post over the last fortnight.

But I will not be silenced as long as there is the potential for another attack on an individual because of their race, creed or colour in Ireland.

The vicious attack on David Richardson and his family in Pearse Street has shocked the people of Ireland, not least the people of Pearse Street who are horrified that such an attack could happen on their doorstep.

The majority of Irish people abhor such actions but the reality is these are happening with a frightening regularity.

A number of political leaders have been incredibly negative in their views and attitudes towards asylum seekers and this only serves to fan the flames of racism.

I work in a school where 15 per cent of our children come from families who are refugees or asylum seekers.

I find the attitude of many politicians very offensive when I look at the children in my school and meet their families who simply want to be accepted as part of the community in Ireland.

In the last six years people have been coming to Ireland from many different parts of the world, seeking a safe place to live away from persecution.

But they have been deliberately misrepresented and treated very negatively in the media in Ireland.

It is clear there is a section of our society who are racists and I don't say that lightly.

But you have to speak out against racism because if it takes root in our cities or in our country, it will spiral out of our control.

In the last couple of years particularly, the use of negative terms when speaking of refugees has increased.

But the idea of 'a flood' or an 'influx' is totally over the top.

Certain groups and political figures are trying to persuade Ireland's poor that refugees are ripping them off.

But refugees get pounds 15 a week to live on, besides their accommodation. That is not more than others get on welfare - it is less.

And these new concerns from the political establishment that money spent on refugees could be spent on the homeless is total hypocrisy.

As someone who worked full-time for the Simon Community for 15 years, I find it insulting as I have seen the paltry grants given to housing shelters and facilities for the homeless - way before there was any mention of refugees.

Why are these people only calling for money to be spent on the homeless now - 20 years later? How cynical is it to use the plight of the homeless as a stick to beat refugees with?

I know a lot of refugee families and I have seen for myself the positive aspects of their introduction into Ireland.

Parents of children at my school have become an important part of school life.

Many help with school issues and school projects. One African woman is an artist and takes some of our kids for an after-schools art project.

Another parent is a talented footballer from Romania who helps coach our kids. …

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Time to Halt the Cancer of Racism; 'Refugees Just Want a Safe Place to Live'
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